The Gold Rush

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For other meanings, see Gold rush (disambiguation).
The Gold Rush
The Gold Rush.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Charlie Chaplin
Produced by Charlie Chaplin
Written by Charlie Chaplin
Starring Charlie Chaplin
Mack Swain
Tom Murray
Music by
  • Charlie Chaplin
  • Carli Elinor
  • Max Terr
  • James L. Fields
Cinematography Roland Totheroh
Edited by Charlie Chaplin
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • June 26, 1925 (1925-06-26)
Running time 95 minutes
Country United States
Language Silent film
English intertitles
Budget $923,000
Box office $2.5 million[1]
The Gold Rush

The Gold Rush is a 1925 American silent comedy film written, produced, directed by, and starring Charlie Chaplin in his Little Tramp role. The film also stars Georgia Hale, Mack Swain, Tom Murray, Henry Bergman, and Malcolm Waite. Chaplin declared several times that this was the film for which he most wanted to be remembered.[2] Though a silent film, it received an Academy Awards nomination for Best Sound Recording (see re-release below).


Big Jim and the Lone Prospector in the wobbling cabin

The Lone Prospector, a valiant weakling, seeks fame and fortune with the sturdy men who marched across Chilkoot Pass into the great unknown in the mad rush for hidden gold in the Alaskan wilderness. The Lone Prospector, his soul fired by a great ambition, his inoffensive patience and his ill-chosen garb alike made him the target for the buffoonery of his comrades and the merciless rigours of the frozen North.

Caught in a terrific blizzard, the icy clutches of the storm almost claim him when he stumbles into the cabin of Black Larsen, renegade. Larsen, unpityingly, is thrusting him from the door back into the arms of death when Fate, which preserves the destinies of its simple children, appears in the person of Big Jim.

The renegade is subdued by Jim in a terrific battle, and the Lone Prospector and his rescuer occupy the cabin while their unwilling host is thrust forth to obtain food. Starvation almost claims the two until a bear intrudes and is killed to supply their larder.

The storm abated, the two depart for the nearest town, and Jim to his hidden mine, the richest in Alaska. Jim finds the renegade in possession of his property, and in the battle that ensues falls under a blow from a shovel wielded by Larsen, who flees from the scene to be swept to his death in an avalanche. Jim recovers consciousness but had lost his memory from the blow.

The Lone Prospector arrives in one of the mushroom cities of the gold trail. He becomes the principal amusement of the village, the bait for the practical jokers – and the provocation of gibes and hilarity from the dance hall habitués. His attention becomes centered on Georgia, queen of the dancehall entertainers, and at first sight becomes enamoured with the girl.

In his timid and pathetic way, he adores at a distance and braves the gibes of the dancehall roughs to feast his lovelorn eyes. Every indignity is heaped upon him until as a last cruel jest, Jack Cameron, Beau Brummel of the camp, hands him an endearing note from Georgia. Believing it written for him, the unhappy lover starts feverishly searching the dancehall for the girl, when Jim, his memory partially restored, enters.

Jim’s only thought is to find the location of the cabin in order to locate his lost mine. He recognizes The Lone Prospector and seizes him, shouting to lead the way to the cabin, and they both will be millionaires. But his lovelorn friend at this moment discovers the girl on the balcony, and breaking away, darts up to embrace her and declare his love to the astonishment of the girl, as well as the crowd.

Unceremoniously dragged from the hall by Jim, the lone Prospector shouts to Georgia that he soon will return to claim her, a millionaire. He and Jim return to the cabin, better-provisioned than previously. Overnight, another blizzard blows this cabin right to Jim's claim and beyond — half over a cliff. In the morning, Jim and the Lone Prospector awake to a teeter-totter experience lasting many tense minutes, before the lone prospector is saved out of the cabin by Jim as it is falling into a chasm.

A year has passed; Jim and his partner, The Lone Prospector, are returning to the United States surrounded with all that wealth can provide. Yet the heart-yearnings of the lover will not be stilled. Georgia has disappeared and his search for her has been all in vain.

The fame of the strike of the partners has spread and newspapermen board the liner for interviews. Lonely consents to don his old clothes for a new photograph. Tripping in the companionway, he falls down stairs into the arms of Georgia, on her way back to the United States as a steerage passenger.

The reporters sense a romance and ask who the girl is. The Lone Prospector whispers to Georgia, who nods assent. Arm in arm, they pose for pictures, while the reporters enthusiastically exclaim, "What a great story this will make!"



Lita Grey was originally cast as the leading lady. Chaplin married Grey in mid-1924, and she was replaced in the film by Georgia Hale. Although photographs of Grey exist in the role, documentaries such as Unknown Chaplin and Chaplin Today: The Gold Rush do not contain any film footage of her.

Chaplin attempted to film many of the scenes on location near Truckee, California, in early 1924. He abandoned most of this footage (which included him being chased through the snow by Big Jim, instead of just around the hut as in the final cut), retaining only the film's opening scene. The final film was shot on the backlot and stages at Chaplin's Hollywood studio, where elaborate Klondike sets were constructed.

Discussing the making of the film in the documentary series Unknown Chaplin, Hale revealed that she had idolized Chaplin since childhood and that the final scene of the original version, in which the two kiss, reflected the state of their relationship by that time (Chaplin's marriage to Lita Grey having collapsed during production of the film). Hale discusses her relationship with Chaplin in her memoir Charlie Chaplin: Intimate Close-Ups.

The Gold Rush was a huge success in the US and worldwide. It is the fifth highest grossing silent film in cinema history, taking in more than $4,250,001 at the box office in 1926, and the highest grossing silent comedy. Chaplin proclaimed at the time of its release that this was the film for which he wanted to be remembered.

Another original release poster.

Critical reception[edit]

In its original 1925 release, The Gold Rush was generally praised by critics. Mordaunt Hall wrote in The New York Times:

Here is a comedy with streaks of poetry, pathos, tenderness, linked with brusqueness and boisterousness. It is the outstanding gem of all Chaplin's pictures, as it has more thought and originality than even such masterpieces of mirth as The Kid and Shoulder Arms.[3]

Variety also published a rave review, calling it "the greatest and most elaborate comedy ever filmed, and will stand for years as the biggest hit in its field, just as The Birth of a Nation still withstands the many competitors in the dramatic class."[4]

The New Yorker published a mixed review, believing that the dramatic elements of the film did not work well alongside Chaplin's familiar slapstick:

One might be given to expect wonders of Gold Rush burlesque with the old Chaplin at the receiving end of the Klondike equivalent of custard. But one is doomed to disappoint, for Chaplin has seen fit to turn on his onion juices in a Pierrot's endeavor to draw your tears...Instead of the rush of tears called for, one reaches for his glycerine bottle...We do not wish to deride Chaplin. He is as deft as ever and far and away a brilliant screen master. He has made a serviceable picture in "The Gold Rush" but it seems that he is not as funny as he once was.[5]

Nevertheless, The New Yorker included The Gold Rush in its year-end list of the ten best films of 1925.[6]

At the 1958 Brussels World Fair, critics rated it the second greatest film in history, behind only Eisenstein's The Battleship Potemkin. In 1992 The Gold Rush was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

American Film Institute recognition

Copyright and home video[edit]

In 1953, the original 1925 film possibly entered the public domain in the USA, as Chaplin did not renew its copyright registration in the 28th year after publication in accordance to American law of the time.[7] As such, the film was once widely available on home video in that country. In the years since, Chaplin's estate has blocked the unauthorized releases of The Gold Rush in the United States:

by arguing that under URAA/GATT, this American-made film is entitled to reciprocal-nation copyright protection by virtue of British copyright, and that it is entitled to status as a British film owing to the film having been copyrighted in the name of Charles Chaplin, who remained a British citizen during his four decades as an American-based filmmaker.

However, according to, the film was first screened in the USA, thereby disqualifying reciprocal copyright recognition under §104A(h)(6)(D); and the film exceeded the 30-day rule (more than 30 days between the US and British screenings), thus also disqualifying it for reciprocal-nation copyright protection.[8]

MK2 Editions and Warner Home Video (Turner Entertainment Co.) currently holds DVD distribution rights. A Blu-ray edition has been released by The Criterion Collection.

1942 re-release[edit]

In 1942, Chaplin released a new version of The Gold Rush, taking the original silent 1925 film and composing and recording a musical score, adding a narration which he recorded himself, and tightening the editing which reduced the film's running time by several minutes. The film is also shortened by being run at 'sound speed', i.e. 24 frames per second; like most silent movies it was originally shot and exhibited at a slower speed. As noted above, Chaplin also changed some plot points. Besides removing the kiss at the end, another change eliminated a subplot in which Charlie is tricked into believing Georgia is in love with him by Georgia's paramour, Jack.

The new music score by Max Terr and the sound recording by James L. Fields were nominated for Academy Awards in 1943.[9]

The Gold Rush was the first of Chaplin's classic silents that he converted to a sound version in this fashion.[10] As revealed in the 2003 DVD release, the reissue of The Gold Rush also served to preserve most of the footage from the original film, as even the DVD-restored print of the 1925 original shows noticeable degradation of image and missing frames, artifacts not in evidence in the 1942 version.

In popular culture[edit]

The "roll dance" the tramp character performs in the film is considered one of the most memorable scenes in film history, although Roscoe Arbuckle did something similar in the 1917 movie The Rough House which co-starred Buster Keaton. The bit was briefly homaged by Curly Howard in the 1935 Three Stooges film Pardon My Scotch. Anna Karina's character in Bande à Part references it before the famous dance scene. In more recent times, it was replicated by Robert Downey Jr. in his lead role as Charles Chaplin in the 1992 Chaplin, which also briefly depicts the production of the film, Johnny Depp's character in the 1993 film Benny and Joon, Grampa Simpson in the 1994 episode of The Simpsons entitled "Lady Bouvier's Lover" and by Amy Adams' character in The Muppets.


  1. ^ Quigley Publishing Company "The All Time Best Sellers", International Motion Picture Almanac 1937-38 (1938) p 942 accessed 19 April 2014
  2. ^ 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, Swedish version, ISBN 978-91-46-21330-7, page 60
  3. ^ Mordaunt Hall, The Gold Rush (review), New York Times, August 17, 1925.
  4. ^ "Film Reviews". Variety (New York: Variety, Inc.): 22. July 1, 1925. Retrieved November 13, 2014. 
  5. ^ "Critique". The New Yorker (New York: F-R Publishing Company): 17. August 22, 1925. 
  6. ^ Shane, Theodore (December 26, 1925). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker (New York: F-R Publishing Company): 29. 
  7. ^ Fishman, Stephen (2010), The Public Domain: How to Find & Use Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art & More (5th ed.), Nolo (retrieved via Google Books), ISBN 1-4133-1205-5, retrieved 2010-10-31 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "The 15th Academy Awards (1943) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-08-14. 
  10. ^ In 1959 Chaplin re-edited The Pilgrim as part of The Chaplin Revue, and in the 1970s he re-edited, re-scored, and re-issued The Kid, A Woman of Paris, and The Circus.

External links[edit]